Food is such an essential part of our day. We all wait for the big breakfast or the lunch with friends, or the intimate dinner with family, but are we paying attention to what we feed our children?
Pediatricians recommend a healthy eating chart for you and your child to follow if you suspect their eating habits have changed. However, what if we are feeding them the wrong thing from the start, thus asking the question, is the food that they are eating making them fat?
Let’s take a look at what our children are eating.
Most parents believe that the best way to start the day is with a big meal. That sadly is not really true. Yes, breakfast should be the most important meal, but it doesn’t have to be big. Children tend to go for food that is easy and tasty, like a Nutella sandwich, or cereal. Little do we know the “organic” and “healthy” cereal or cornflakes actually contains more sugar and preservatives than a slice of double fudge cake. All the labels say is that it contains beneficial calcium, whole grains and vitamins perhaps, but all that good nutrition is outdone by the avalanche of sugar.
Replace: Let your child start the day with some low-fat yogurt, eggs, oatmeal, or fruits. A simple way to get them to start changing their beloved cereal to a healthier option is to let them prepare it themselves, perhaps even the night before.
Obviously sugar and processed food has taken over most of the supermarket. You child is of course always looking to get that chocolate or that new candy everyone at school is talking about. Understanding that moderation is key, snacks are not to be taken lightly, literally! Some children snack on chips or chocolate or maybe even get a little biscuit with juice. The mistake there is even if they are labeled as healthy and with less calories, it is still probably infested with sugar.
Replace: The juice probably contains more sugar than whatever sugary snack your child is having it with. Urge your child to replace their juice with water to stay hydrated. Even veggie chips are not going to cut it, the amount of preservatives and “natural flavoring” that they have might just be as bad as stuffing your child with a full bag of greasy potato chips. Replace them with actual veggies like baby carrots, cucumbers or pieces of vitamin C filled fruits like berries or oranges.
Ask your pediatrician of good snacks your child can have at school.
Lunch is considered the big meal here. Your child comes home from a long day of studying and running around with their friends. They need a meal that will soothe them yet keep them sharp enough for an after school activity or homework. Some parents prefer a nap after lunch but remember, it takes a child at least one hour to start digesting their food. Without proper digestion, your child tends to gain weight. Most families will consume rice with meat or chicken, perhaps something with hot sauce, or maybe even a mix of sandwiches and soup. This is a meal you can be lenient with, but be mindful about.
Replace: consider adding smaller portions as starters, if your child still feels hungry give them more. Also consider adding a vegetable if the food is mostly carbohydrates, this will aid with digestion.
This should be the lightest meal of the day, and the earlier it is consumed the better. However, sadly this is when the day is dwindling down and the children are at their most hyper. Most families probably eat in front of the TV, this is a habit that makes you and your child less conscious of how much you are eating. Most people will try to eat something light like sandwiches and meat. However, consuming too many carbs before bed can really make you struggle when sleeping.
Replace: this is when you need that yogurt, or that fruit salad or just a few leafy vegetables. They will give you just enough energy for a few hours as you let your body digest and will not give you heartburn or make you gain weight in the process.
Get the best pediatricians in Qatar’s opinions about the best dinner recipes to follow for the best digestion.
Too much of something is bad. This is the case with everything, including food. Moderation is key to a healthy diet, and a healthy lifestyle. However, sometimes, parents make some mistakes, in our whirlwinds of life, we sometimes struggle to see little signs that our children are seeing loud and clear. Here are a few mistakes that you can avoid:
Never skip breakfast
We don’t like to believe it, but our children hear and see everything. If you only drink coffee in the morning, your child is already thinking of when they get older that coffee is all you need. Skipping breakfast for your child can mean that they lose focus, that they fall asleep in class, or that they feel hungry most of the day until they are allowed to eat. None of these things can be good for your child’s wellbeing. Allocate time to have a family breakfast, even if it is just a quick fruit salad.
Attempt healthy food recipes
Involving your child in the process of making food gives them a sense of responsibility to follow it even when you are not around. Pediatricians recommend that you cook with your child to help them understand the difference between smart healthy food, and processed fast foods.
Don’t let your child eat alone
Children seem to always be hungry but letting them eat alone may be the worst thing to do. This might tempt them to eat the wrong food or simply just eat what they like from what you served them. It also makes them feel like you are paying any attention to their most important desire. No one likes to eat alone, so why should your child?
Don’t have a “clean your plate” policy
It is seen as a sign of great disrespect when someone doesn’t clean their plates/ finish every crumb. Although we like to encourage our children to eat more. Forcing them to finish their food might be doing more harm than good. Children would associate food with emotional comfort, this leads to early obesity and perhaps diabetes and other diseases. It is better to have smaller portions and if anyone wants to eat more, they are more than welcome to.
Don’t use sweets as a reward
There is no need to delve into the sugar debate once more. Too much sugar can do a lot of damage. Read more about the sugar epidemic here.
Don’t push your child to lose weight
Yelling and singling out your chubby child will not get them to lose weight. Forcing them to participate in exercises that no one else in the family is doing with them, and forcing them to eat healthy while everyone else gets dessert is definitely not going to help your child lose weight. Weight loss is so hard for adults, imagine what a child must go through?! Work as a family to encourage everyone to eat healthy. Don’t point out who ate more of what, if all the food is equally healthy, then everyone is consuming healthy food.
Read more about back to school preparations here!